Advice to My Younger Writer-Self – Part 4


Find out if your goal of becoming a writer is based on something outside of writing—i.e. wanting to be rich or smart or famous. (And if it’s any of those things, you are SO looking in the wrong place. Buy a lottery ticket—way better odds.) Do you want to be a writer because your best friend, neighbour, the flunkie who sits in the cubicle next to you says she’s a writer? What am I getting at here: talent. Do you have it?

Find someone who can tell you—sincerely, dispassionately, without personal gain—if you have talent because without it (and SO many think they have it and don’t) you really are wasting your time. Sorry if that sounds harsh. Get used to it

Get used to lots of stuff. Here’s a starting list:
    (1) anxiously waiting for rejection letters—don’t like rejection? Don’t become a writer.
    (2) never hearing back from the query letters you send out—not even rejection (see #1).
    (3) not being able to afford vacations—or new shoes. Or tons of things, but that’s another list.
    (4) your best friend, neighbour, or the flunkie who sits in the cubicle next to you thinking they  can write better than you and who do you think you are anyway?
    (5) losing friends when you start to succeed as a writer.
    (6) making new friends—maybe even other writers—you will treasure for their insight, wisdom, good advice, and sincerity as you grow into who you really are—a writer.
    (7) working as a server, maid, delivery person…whatever job keeps a roof over your head while you pursue your writing career. This is not to say a professional with a full-time job cannot succeed as a writer—there are plenty of great examples to prove they can. But to be a successful  writer AND work in a demanding job—well, do the physical (and emotional) math.
    (8) the stress of a deadline.  
    (9) the stress of no deadlines (no work).

I shall leave the list at nine because the younger writer in me (and you) will want to add number ten and maybe a whole heap more. Save your list. Read it in 30 years. Tell me, writer-of-the-future, is there anything on that list that isn’t true for you? What have you learned; how have you grown; what would you do differently?

This is Part 4 of a multi-part blog post. If you missed Parts 1 through 4, catch up! Come back on Dec 28th for the final installment.

2 Responses to Advice to My Younger Writer-Self – Part 4
  1. Ronald Fischman
    December 31, 2012 | 11:48 pm

    I just wanted to add one thing – if you have a story that has to be told, then you can keep drafting and revising. Everyone has one really good story in them, but unless you like suffering, telling them tonight over eggnog is fine.

    Oh – unless you have proofread for a living, hire someone for that chore! Too many writers have voice and storytelling gifts, but they slept through high school English. To such people, I would advise them to do really well in their day jobs and HIRE ONE OF US!

    • Christine Cowley
      January 1, 2013 | 3:01 pm

      So true, Ronald. Tell your story, but even better, record it in any fashion you can, so that it isn’t lost.

      One thing I caution my clients about when it comes to grammar and punctuation: doggedly following schoolteacher rules does not necessarily make for excellent writing. But you need to know the rules before you can creatively break them. Some truly brilliant work would be lost if we were to lose the ability to break the rules well. That’s where professional editors and proofreaders really earn their keep. When you edit and read for a living, the sheer volume that passes through your internal editorial filters trains your brain to instantly recognize skilled craft–often feeling it first in the gut–and separate it from simply poorly crafted work.

      Thanks for the thoughtful input!

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